My interview on the Lars Larson Show about the attack on Cornell Prof. David Collum
The price to be paid by conservatives on campus is a topic I have been covering frequently.
I discussed recently the issues at Cornell in For conservatives at Cornell University, high price for free speech, and more generally the atmosphere on many campuses in The new Cultural Revolution on Campuses
On May 1, 2017, I was a guest on the Lars Larson show, talking about the lessons of the smear attack on distinguished Cornell Chemistry Professor David B. Collum through a letter to the editor in The Cornell Sun signed by seven graduate students.
The letter attacking Prof. Collum, which I described in my interview with Lars as a “full frontal assault,” was addressed in my response in The Sun, Prof. David Collum, Chemistry, is owed an apology and a retraction.
My defense of Prof. Collum elicited a response in the Cornell Sun from Michaela Brangan, Cornell Graduate Students United (the student group pushing for unionization) administration liaison, On credulity and union politics: A response from a CGSU Officer on letter from Prof. Jacobson, law. Read the whole thing at the link, here’s an excerpt:
Drawing a line between Collum’s past acts related to the union and a letter to the editor regarding his published statements that reflect attitudes about other things is guesswork, at best. But Prof. Jacobson’s union retaliation narrative checks one big political box. It stokes conservatives’ fears that they are silenced and persecuted for their beliefs by vengeful “SJWs” (short for social justice warriors) on campuses, all part of a stealth left-wing plan to usher in tyranny. Press and others eager to bolster their confirmation biases took up Prof. Jacobson’s narrative hook, line and sinker. The initial claim of “payback” frames Prof. Jacobson’s entire analysis, pressing the “right” buttons — sneaky liberals! oppressive unions! — and causing a minor media feeding frenzy. This distracts away from the issue of Prof. Collum’s public statements and whether opinions on his likely views regarding campus sexual misconduct and gender discrimination might be reasonably drawn by a student or faculty member.
That, of course, is the only relevant issue. I guess it isn’t bloody enough.
I won’t ask Prof. Jacobson — or Red State, or The Federalist — for an apology and retraction, as he demands for others’ opinions. Conflicts around free speech, grievance policies and sexual misconduct on campus are real and fraught as it is, and we all have to struggle through them somehow, together. They don’t need conspiratorial chimeras grafted onto them by professors, who should be taking the intellectual lead on campus, not stoking fear. It is unbecoming, and pollutes our shared discourse.
Oddly, the CGSU letter never addressed the evidence I raised in defense of Collum.
In my interview with Lars, I had a chance to explain the Cornell situation and how it fit into the larger issue of retaliation against those who speak out against the left or unions on campus.
After explaining how Collum was targeted due to his opposition to the unionization of graduate students, I moved on to the accusations made against him in the Cornell Sun:
“All of the sudden, a week or two ago, in the school newspaper, the Cornell Sun, which is a very good newspaper, they published this ferocious letter to the editor signed by seven students, either all or most of whom were union supporters, just ripping into this professor calling him a rape apologist, calling him misogynistic, calling him transphobic, calling him all the sort of names that on a modern campus can really jeopardize your job and your reputation…. It really was very unsettling I think for much of the campus with this attack on a prominent professor….
I think the point you’re bringing up is this is the risk you take when you are, I should mention, he is a conservative professor, he’s one of maybe a half dozen you can count on the entire campus who are openly conservative. And so it really goes to the question, if you are conservative, and if you speak out, even to colleagues, are you going to face some sort of retribution, and that’s the modern campus that we’re living in today….
To me the bigger issue is not that they criticized him for what he said about the unions, is that low and behold a couple of weeks later there’s this full frontal assault on him, on his reputation, on him as a person in the school newspaper ….
Even when you win the battle you might lose the argument. Because the message gets out there, if you’re going to speak out against the left wing, if you’re going to speak out against unionization, things like that, there’s going to be a price to pay, and that price to pay might be your reputation or it might be your job, and that’s the message.”
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